Lee refused to admit she was nervous. It was only a date, after all - not that big a deal in the scope of things. She'd faced down gunmen, angry editors and many a nightmarish deadline without a qualm - so why should one night on the town, in the company of a handsome man, reduce her to jelly?
Just give it up, one part of her mind sensibly advised her. He's probably as shaky as you are. Ruthlessly, she completely ignored it, attempting to retain her cool.
"So, uh... do you come here often?" she asked, in an attempt to make conversation. The restaurant was actually very nice; the decor was tasteful and sparse, the lighting dim, yet still bright enough that she could actually see her dining companion. The waiters had been pleasant, and the food was delicious.
"Not really," Joseph said. "A friend of mine suggested it. He and his wife have come here several times."
Lee nodded, fiddled with the cloth napkin in her lap. "You'll have to tell him he has good taste in restaurants," she said awkwardly, and bit her lip.
Joseph looked over the hurricane-lamp style candle in the middle of the table, his cobalt eyes sparking white fire in the illumination. "Lee... I get the sense you're not comfortable. Is it me?"
She wanted to let out a nervous laugh, but restrained it. "No. It's not you, honest. I haven't been on a date in ages, that's all. I keep forgetting the etiquette."
He looked surprised. "Really? I find it hard to believe that a woman of your beauty doesn't have suitors beating down her door."
Lee ducked her head, letting the few strands of hair she had left loose fall around her face. "Oh, stop."
"I'm serious," he said. "Are you blushing?"
She put her cold hands to her cheeks, trying to deny it. "No," she firmly stated, then let out a low giggle. "All right, I guess I am. That's not fair."
"What, that I made you blush?" A rare smile crossed his face. "It certainly is. After all, you did it to me the other night."
"I guess that's true," she chuckled. "Turnabout's fair play, hm?"
He nodded, eyes dancing in the candlelight. "Something like that."
"You're evil," she promptly accused him. Pretending to be wounded, he clutched a hand to his heart. She only grinned, skewering a piece of salmon and devouring it. All of a sudden, the night didn't seem to be so going quite so badly as she'd feared.
Standing in the control booth of the Danger Room, Remy gazed down into the main chamber below him. The illusion of a rocky Maine coastline filled the room, harsh and barren, with seafoam splashing the lonely shore. As the control booth itself was cloaked by the hologram, the shore's lone occupant could not see him.
Just as well, Remy thought. She'll probably bite my head off.
The woman was walking along the water's edge, treading slow, her feet making half-moons in the sand that were quickly reclaimed by the devouring tide. She was dressed casually - jeans, a t-shirt cut short to show off her well-toned midriff. Her dark auburn curls fell free around her face, the white stripe in their center perfectly complementing the whiteness of the sand and sea.
Rogue. The woman to whom he'd lost his heart. Whether she'd stolen it or he'd given it voluntarily, he wasn't sure, although he did know that he didn't want it back.
She was going through some turmoil, he knew, because of Joseph's interest in Lee. Though she claimed to have no romantic interest in Joseph, Rogue's current contemplative state suggested otherwise. Remy had offered an ear, but she'd refused. Now, though, he felt he should try again. She also deserved to know about his past involvement with Lee, if only for honesty's sake. Besides, he thought with sardonic amusement, Bishop wants the Danger Room in twenty minutes. And we all gotta be on time where he's concerned.
Sighing, he shoved the door open and took the access stairway down to the main level. He took a deep, steadying breath before pushing open the door.
His voice came from behind her. She didn't turn around, wishing that he would mysteriously disappear. Of course, he didn't.
"Chere, you need t' talk t' someone."
"What ah need," she said with a snap of anger, "is for you t' go away. Ah said ah'd talk t' you when ah'm good an' ready, an' not before."
"I know you're upset," he said, not moving from his perch on a weathered boulder. "Keepin' it inside ain't gonna do y' no good. Y' know dat."
She wrapped her arms around herself and turned to face the sea. It was grey and cold, reflecting the heavily overcast sky - and her mood. Finally, she nodded.
"Ah know. But ah didn't want t' tell you... didn't want you t' know."
"I t'ink I already do, ma couer," he replied quietly. "It's Joseph, neh?"
"Yes," she exhaled heavily. "It's Joseph. I cain't help but feel somethin' for him. But ah thought ah'd put it all behind me. Seein' him with her... wasn't much fun."
"Jealous, eh?" Remy couldn't help but be a little blunt; he'd been scarred during that time they'd spent apart, and those wounds were still healing. "Kind'a how I felt, seein' you wit' him."
"That's not fair, Remy," she muttered.
"Maybe not." He hopped off the boulder, moved along the sand, slowly approaching her. "But I been hurt too. And dere's something else I need y' to know."
"What now?" When she turned to face him, a look of haunted despair filled her dark eyes. Remy was stricken by the look. By all the Saints, he never wanted to hurt her again. But he had to tell her.
"The woman. I used t'... know her, back in N'awleans. Don't know why she didn't rec'gnize me on the street, but we met way back when. It was, um, after th' stuff wit' Bella went south."
Rogue's eyes turned even darker while he spoke, and he was hard pressed now to label the emotions he saw within them. He was deliberately refraining from using any 'charm', wanting her to hear his words free of influence - laying his soul bare. Maybe if he told her these truths, he hoped, he could refrain from some of the other, more damning facts.
"We were over a long time ago, chere, an' ain't neither of us looked back. But I thought y' should--"
His face was stinging from the force of the open-palmed blow she'd laid along his cheek. Simultaneously, her hurt voice rang in his ears. "You think ah wanted t' know that, Remy LeBeau?! You gotta tell me 'bout all your past exploits like that makes some kind'a difference t' me? I don't wanna hear it - now or evah!"
And she was gone.
Remy stood alone in the room, still astonished, staring after the door that was rapidly closing behind her. He had expected hurt, anger - but not like that. Maybe this telling secrets thing wasn't such a hot idea after all.
"Remy, what are you doing down there? There's a session scheduled in two minutes."
Bishop's deep-pitched voice interrupted his thoughts. He glanced up at the portion of sky behind which the control room was concealed. "Yeh, Bish, I know. I'm outta here."
"...so here I am, with a semi-automatic rifle being shoved in my face and this hairy gentleman demanding the film from my camera - in none too kind a tone of voice, either." Lee related the story with a shrug of nonchalance as she and Joseph exited the restaurant. He had, rather charmingly, paid for dinner himself, although she insisted on leaving the tip. Now, as they headed down the street, she took the arm he offered without hesitation. He looked quite stunning in a long black overcoat, she observed with an inward smile, with his long silvery-white hair gathered into a neat queue at the nape of his neck.
"And you did what any sensible person would do, of course," Joseph said indulgently in response to her last comment.
Lee shook her head. "Are you kidding? Of course not. I... what did I do?" She stopped in her tracks, puzzled, as the memories of the succeeding moments were suddenly vague and incomplete. "I could have sworn... no, I guess Frank must have distracted him - Frank was our guide," she added as an aside, "while I ran like hell."
"You guess?" Joseph arched an eyebrow that seemed made for arching in that disbelieving manner.
"I'm - not sure," she admitted. "The next thing I remember is being in the rental jeep and taking off back to the village where we were staying."
"Couldn't have been that important, then, if it wasn't worth remembering." He turned to her, bringing her hand up to his lips. "Unlike you, my dear."
Distracted from her jumbled memories by the charming actions, Lee glanced down at the ground. "You're too much," she said softly.
"I've been told that," he said. Keeping her hand tucked in one of his own, he gently touched her face with the fingertips of his free hand. His touch was light and gentle, almost worshipful. Lee let out a sigh, looking up at Joseph almost expectantly. Her lips parted slightly.
A sudden metallic whine made them both jump and then spin, fighting to see what had caused it. Out of the sky, four forms appeared, rapidly descending to land on the street and sidewalk around the pair. All four were heavily armored in robotic suits with faceplates; the armor seemed to include some kind of rocket-pack as well. Not one of them wasn't covered in guns and weapons.
"Don't move," one of them grated, amplified voice ringing in their ears.
Joseph snarled, "Take me if you will, but leave her out of this!" Beside him, Lee could only stare at the figures in confusion. Despite their frightening appearance - probably deliberately designed for that effect - something about them seemed oddly familiar.
A harsh laugh answered Joseph's challenge. A bright ray of light shot forth from one of the weapons arrays on an arm of the man's suit, flaring harshly in the darkness. The silver-haired man let out a cry of pain as the beam connected with him; catching the fringes of it, Lee felt herself go dizzy and numb. Suddenly, her legs were too weak to support her, and she found the sidewalk coming up to meet her all too quickly.
Within moments, both of them were crumpled on the pavement. One of the armored figures let out a snigger that crackled over their radios. "Master of magnetism, my ass."
"Shut up an' get 'em in the 'copter. We're on a tight schedule."
Cleanup went quickly. Within the space of five minutes, there was no sign that a confrontation had ever taken place.
this page last updated on 18 january 2003